Solicitor jailed for taking £370,000 from dying client

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A solicitor from Cheshire has been jailed for three years after taking £370,000 from a dying pensioner.

Peter Taylor, who worked at wills, probate and estates planning practice Nightingales in Poynton, Cheshire, pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud and two counts of theft last week.

The 65-year-old from Congleton wrote cheques to himself, took money from cash machines using his victim’s card and even sold and transferred shares into his own name after being granted power of attorney over Mary Elizabeth Wallace’s affairs.

Taylor used the money to pay his mortgage and fund improvements to his home. He spent a third of Mrs Wallace’s £1 million estate which had been left to the Salvation Army, Alzheimer’s Society and the Animal Defence League, when she died in 2014.

He also stole £7,798 from another client, Doreen Gleave, who died in 2012, by selling her shares.

Taylor was given power of attorney alongside another partner at the firm in 2006, but when the other partner retired in 2011 he gained sole power of attorney. He withdrew money for Mrs Wallace while she was in a care home in August 2012, but instead kept the money for himself.

Simon Minz, prosecuting, said: “From August 2014 the defendant took from Mrs Wallace, £188,000 from the cash points, £53,000 using the debit card, £130,000 in cheques and £7,000 in AstraZeneca shares.

“He attempted to hide his fraud by hiding share documents and having Mrs Wallace’s bank statements sent to his home address. Suspicions arose when he refused to hand over the probate file to her will’s executor.

“His secretary found copies of the AstraZeneca shares in his desk, and a copy of a bank statement with his address. She alerted the other partners who confronted him.”

Cheshire Constabulary’s DC Alan Davies said: “This was a despicable crime, stealing from those who had died and left money in his trust to give to charity. This was a complicated investigation which once we uncovered the scale of his crimes left us shocked at his callous disregard for his clients.

“The temptation of having access to so much money clearly got the better of him, but solicitors have a duty to protect their clients and do what is best for them, something he clearly didn’t do. Taylor is now behind bars proving that crime really doesn’t pay.”

Sentencing Judge Nicholas Woodward said: “You were a solicitor for your entire working life and as sole power of attorney had a high degree of trust.

“Your actions have had a devastating effect on you and those who care for you, benefactors, including charities, suffered substantial losses, you betrayed and stained your colleagues and dishonesty undermined the reputation of your whole profession.”

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